4 January 2018

Feature: Healthy Living!

Time to Ditch the ‘D’ Word

 There’s a multitude of ghastly things in this world that make people shudder with disgust; toe jam, slugs, clumps of hair down the plughole, the list goes on. For me, the mention of the word ‘diet’ literally brings me out in a rash.

This multi billion dollar/pound industry has been built from the desperation, self-loathing, vanity and obsession of millions and millions of people, who basically want to look good naked and fast. It doesn’t matter how you dress it up, we live in an image-obsessed, fat-shaming society.

Do you want the other bit of bad news? Humans are inherently lazy. We are programmed to be efficient, to conserve as much energy as possible. So when someone offers you a quick fix solution to look fantastic, you’d be crazy to say no right?! Look on Wikipedia for the entry under the term ‘diet’; it lists approximately 100 different diets, which is only the tip of the iceberg.

Are these diets successful? Absolutely. For about 5 minutes!

So you pay lots of money for a diet book, DVD, online programme or whatever other method these con artists favour and you begin with an abundance of enthusiasm and energy. You quickly start to feel tired, drained, but it’s ok the weight is falling off. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels right?! You get to your target weight (eurgh, another word I hate) and you start to eat “normally” again. Quelle surprise, the weight goes back on. And here we have our much-loved term ‘yo-yo dieting’; you feel really bad about yourself and start to look for the next diet because that last one you did clearly wasn’t very good, was it.

Do these imbeciles actually understand the harm that they’re inflicting? Never mind the metabolic damage this causes. To me, the most important issues are psychological. The average person doesn’t get how the human body works and that we are designed to adapt. We are built to retain weight; it’s a survival tactic. If you starve the body, it will learn how to function by using less energy. Your metabolism really slows down, which means when you start to eat “normally” your body doesn’t burn as much energy as it used to. End result – you put on even more weight than you initially wanted to lose. This feels really really shit. You beat yourself up for being weak, a failure, a loser or whatever other horrible name you call yourself. It’s not true! You were set up TO FAIL. This makes me want to scream.

Before we go any further, we briefly need to get our geek on. Let’s look at 3 scientific principles that everyone wanting to lose fat needs to understand:

1. I call it ‘fat’ loss and not ‘weight’ loss: measuring actual weight loss is about as a useful as an inflatable dartboard. There are too many variables that can influence the reading on the scales: water retention, addition of muscle mass, glycogen stores, time of day when you weigh yourself, that time of the month, salt intake.

2. Homeostasis: the body is really clever and it likes balance. Everything inside the body is designed to bring it back to a state of stability and consistency, which is called homeostasis. For the fellow word geeks out there, “homeo” means like or similar and “stasis” literally means equilibrium.

3. Energy expenditure: in order to lose fat, you need to use up more energy than you consume i.e. you have to burn more than you eat. There is a basal metabolic rate, below which you shouldn’t go if you want your organs to function properly, which is kinda important. Give or take, this is about 1200-1400 calories per day for the average female. But there are other factors at play, aside from the obvious food and exercise, that can act as inhibitors or catalysts to burning energy. It’s a bit like the nice yellow minions fighting versus the crazy, evil purple ones. In order to have more of the good guys running around your body you need to keep active, sleep well, control your stress levels and have a strong, healthy gut. Simple right?

So as we start the New Year, how about we make one really important resolution – let’s ‘Ditch the Diet’! Out with the old, in with the new. A new, healthier, more balanced approach, which goes something like this:

  • -   Be kind to yourself and your body
  • -   Take time out to sit and breathe each day, even if it’s for 1 minute
  • -   Get moving every day
  • -   Eat lots of food that makes your body feel full of energy
  • -   Stop scrolling on Instagram at midnight and get some extra sleep!

 By Alex Joseph (@aj_naturalfit)


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